Is the lead in Johnathan Kozol's "The Human Cost of an illiterate Society" effective?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Personally, I think that the lead is amazing.  The directions on a can of chemicals, of Drano, are ominous and downright scary.  Yet, they are only meaningful if one can read.  The fact that a common household chemical, something sold in supermarkets all over the world, can actually be an agent of death if someone cannot read proves Kozol's point.  Kozol takes a different approach on the issue of illiteracy.  He argues that there is a painful condition in one's existence in not being able to read.  This is not about digital competitiveness, citizenship in a democracy, and a nation's ability to pilot itself in the future, although all of these are apparent in his article.  His major point is that one's illiteracy is a cause of danger.  The world is a literate one and there are so many pitfalls and challenges to someone who is functionally illiterate.  The warning on the Drano can is one of many challenges in life that one faces if they are illiterate.  Kozol draws a fairly straight line between those who are illiterate and death, something that the lead instructions of the Drano can brings out quite powerfully.

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